RV Review: Airstream Travel Trailer

Nice Accommodations for Recreation or Full-Time

what to know about airstream trailers

 TripSavvy / Ellen Lindner

Some of the most durable RVs on the road are Airstream trailers, which are known for lasting 40 or more years. According to Airstream, an estimated 60 to 70 percent of all Airstreams made are still in use today.

If you're considering a travel trailer as your RV, and especially a used one, consider this: After about 15 years most brands will be just about used up, but an Airstream will have nearly two-thirds of its life left. And, in case you thought Airstream made only travel trailers, they offer two Class B motorhome models, too.

Airstream suggests that its RVs can hold their value equal to the original price or more, but this isn't always the case. An excellent place to check for current used RV asking prices is RV Online.

Pros

Airstream trailers are popular and for a good reason. These are some of the positive aspects of owning an Airstream.

Affordability: You can buy a good, used Airstream travel trailer for under $20,000, and older ones for under $10,000 and still have many years of maintenance-free use.

Low Center of Gravity: Airstream trailers have a low center of gravity that helps keep them stable when driving, especially if you have to make a quick lane change or maneuver around an object on the road.

Aerodynamic: Airstreams were built to be aerodynamic from the get-go, long before fuel efficiency and the environment were concerned. Airstream's aerodynamic design results in far better fuel mileage than box-style and 5th wheel trailers, with an estimated 10 to 20 percent fuel savings per trip over competitors. This aerodynamic design stabilizes the trailer helping it glide smoothly with no buffeting from headwinds. Even in high side winds about the only thing that you'll feel is a slight jolt and a little sway when passing 18-wheelers.

Quality Construction: As an example, the 1994 Excella built-ins are made of sturdy and beautifully finished wood cabinets, not pressboard or synthetic wood. The mattresses and cushions are original, over 15 years old, and are just beginning to show wear. The mini-blinds have held up well, and the owner is still using the original heater and air-conditioner, microwave/convection oven, and so forth. After all these years, nothing is warped with little maintenance. The doors, drawers, and all moving parts fit like a glove.

Durability: Airstreams are constructed like airplanes, with aluminum panels that are riveted together to create a durable and streamlined structure.

Independent Torsion Axles: Independent torsion axles have their own shock absorbers and increase the amount of control you have while towing.

Weight Distribution: Airstream constructs its trailers with the greater weight distributed over the axles and balanced to improve control while towing. You do have to plan your weight distribution when packing your airstream.

Environmentally Friendly: Most of the materials Airstreams are made from aluminum, wood, and steel, are completely recyclable. In Airstream's words, "Silver is Green."

Cons

Width: Some of the older airstreams are narrow inside and might make you envy some of the roomier RVs. Airstreams from 1995 on are about six inches wider, just enough for two people to maneuver around inside, but also just enough to affect rear-view visibility while towing, too.

Climate Control: More insulation would be good to conserve cooling and heating better.

Weight Mis-Distribution: Never let two people stand in the back (bedroom) of a long, unhitched Airstream without putting the landing gear down. It will tip.

Other Considerations

New Trailer Price: While new Airstream trailers are more expensive to buy than other RVs remember that they can last up to three times longer than most other brands. The cost drops considerably if you don't have to replace it in 15 years. And it has a better resale value than a box-model.

Social: Driving down a highway and having a fellow Airstreamer flash his lights in greeting, or the unhesitant way two Airstream owners will strike up a conversation brings camaraderie many RVers don't experience. Aside from other Airstreamers, your "silver-Twinkie" tends to draw interest and questions from just about anyone, not just RV-owners. One of the most common comments is, "I've always wanted one and just haven't bought it yet."

The Wally Byam Caravan Club International, complete with a forum, escorted caravans, local units you can join, rallies, and more is a long-established social Airstream club. Even if you're new to RVing, you can travel like a seasoned full-timer with one of their caravans.

There is also a friendly Airstream forum where you can get all your questions answered. Sign up at www.airforums.com.

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